Srinagar: As morning bells echoed across Kashmir on Wednesday, signalling the reopening of schools in the Valley after a prolonged winter vacation, students and parents alike kept their fingers crossed in hopes of a disturbance-free year of education.
"I am very happy to meet my classmates after a long time but we are all worried about the situation. It’s very fragile, keeping in view the things that happened last winter. Our lives and careers are at stake," said Tabish Nabi, a 12th standard student at a Christian missionary school in Srinagar.
"We will work hard this year and make up for lost time. Let’s keep our fingers crossed," he said.
Last year, schools across Kashmir remained closed for over four months due to the violence that broke out across the Valley and the subsequent curfew imposed following Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani's death.
The violent clashes between locals and security forces left at least 100 people dead and thousands injured. This shut-in was followed by a two month long winter break, meaning schools were closed for almost half a year.
"Before dropping my daughter to school this morning, I prayed to god for a peaceful year so that these kids can receive an education without any hindrance," Wali Mohammad, a resident of Srinagar told Firstpost.
“Last year was a total disaster, as students were forced to sit inside their homes for months. It affected their mental state as well,” Mohammad said.
During last year’s unrest, close to 30 schools – mostly government owned – were torched by arsonists, evoking strong criticism from all quarters of the state, including from Hurriyat leaders and locals. The state government also faced criticism for not safeguarding the schools.
"We will try to put in more efforts this year to maximise our output, so that our students don’t have to suffer unnecessarily this year," said the principal of a government school in suburban Natipora.
"I’ve convinced my staff to take extra classes in the interests of our students. We don’t want them to be injured or killed by bullets but they should be studying."
Because of the shut-down last year, the state had to drastically alter its academic calendar. Apart from mass promoting students, except class 11th and 12th, the syllabi of colleges and universities had to be reduced and exams were deferred.
"The education sector has suffered the most during the recent unrest in Kashmir. It’s alarming the way students are losing time... they are lagging behind students of other places," a senior professor at University of Kashmir said.
"The people at the helm of affairs have to come up with something concrete about the Kashmir resolution. Everything, including human lives, are at stake," she said.
Earlier, due to the 2014 floods in the region, the Omar Abdullah-led government had to grant mass promotions to students up to class ninth and 11th. Similarly, after the 2010 mass protests, the state education department had to wave off parts of the syllabus to conduct exams.
Updated Date: Mar 01, 2017 15:41 PM